Eclairs with Vanilla Custard and Chocolate Ganache

PBS has been kindly airing the second season of the Great British Baking Show every Sunday evening and I’ve been able to stream it online since we don’t have TV.  Every week, I literally cannot help myself but to make a recipe inspired by the show.  Last week, I made the Apricot Couronne and posted a photo to Instagram.  Look who found it!

Apricot ring

This week is pastry week and the ‘technical challenge’ was Choux Bun Religieuse.  They’re a little French pastry meant to resemble a nun.  A small choux bun filled with a vanilla custard and the top dipped in chocolate ganache to hold yet another choux bun filled with more custard and the top dipped in more ganache.  A piping of whipped cream goes between the two.  I wasn’t really anxious to make a tray of French nuns BUT the prospects of making choux buns and vanilla custard (creme patissiere) did strike my fancy.  Basically, what I ended up making was a simplified version; Eclairs with Vanilla Custard and Chocolate Ganache.

Choux buns are made of four ingredients, one of which is water.  How hard could they possibly be!?

  • 4 1/2 T butter
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/3 + 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 whole eggs, lightly beaten

In a 2 quart sauce pan, melt the butter and water and bring to a gentle boil.  As soon as it starts to boil, quickly tip in the flour and beat, while still on low heat, for 3 minutes.  Time yourself, you’ll get tired and you don’t want to not properly cook the flour, make sure it’s 3 minutes.  The dough will start to ball up.  Next, remove the pan from the heat and let rest for 1 minute.  This is REALLY important, you need to let it cool before you add the eggs or you’ll have scrambled eggs on your hands. To help cool the dough, spread it out on the bottom of the sauce pan.  Again, make sure it’s been resting for 1 minute.  Lastly, add in the beaten eggs to the dough mixture and beat for another minute, it will start to develop a sticky thick texture.  It should be smooth and slightly shiny.  Fill a pastry bag with the mixture and pipe little 1 –  1 1/2 inch discs on a cookie tray lined with parchment paper.  Bake on 425 F for 10 minutes and then another 10 minutes on 375 F.  When they’ve slightly browned, remove from the oven and pierce the tops of each bun with a skewer to let the steam escape.  Set them back in the warm oven (turned off) for 2-3 minutes to help dry out the insides of the bun.

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Only 4 ingredients…but technically, rather challenging.  Here’s a perfect example of what can go wrong!

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I didn’t let the dough cool before adding the eggs and it scrambled.  I pressed on hoping all would still be well and the poor little buns never rose.  Sad day indeed!  The second attempt when much better!

Next, the creme patissiere…it’s a fun word to say.  To me, it’s basically vanilla custard.

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 T corn starch
  • 2 T + 1 tsp. flour
  • 1 T vanilla

In another 2 quart sauce pan, heat the whole milk slowly until it almost comes to a boil.  While the milk is heating, separate out your yolks.  (Dogs love egg whites!)  Blend the yolks with the sugar, corn starch and flour.  Before the milk comes to a roaring boil, pour a little into your yolk mixture to ‘temper’ it…again, you don’t want to scramble the eggs!  When the yolk mixture has warmed, pour it all back into the sauce pan of milk and continue to heat on low until the custard starts to thicken.  This will only take about a minute.  Lastly, add the vanilla.  Pour the custard into a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator to cool.  (1-2 hours)

Fast forward a few hours and it’s assembly time!

Chocolate Ganache

  • One 4 ounce 60% cocoa bar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 T half and half

Warm the half and half in a small sauce pan but don’t boil.  When hot, pour over the broken chocolate bar and let sit for a few seconds until the chocolate has had time to soften.  Stir until the chocolate becomes a thick sauce.

Fill a clean piping bag with the vanilla custard and start piping it into the pastry.  Use the hole you made initially to let the hot steam out.  You’ll be surprised how much custard can fit in the buns.  Carefully spoon off any extra custard that comes back out when filled.  Dip the tops of the filled buns in the chocolate ganache.

This recipe made 20 little buns.  Keep refrigerated until serving.

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